High time we dealt with drugs differently

Feb. 18, 2006 12:00 AM

"And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise."

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The drug of the month is methamphetamine.

Our politicians are pulling their usual chicken-without-a-head act, running around in circles passing laws left and right.

The governor's getting into the act, and the county attorney is running TV ads so sick they border on, if not actually are, pornographic.

Four thousand years ago, give or take, a pharaoh of Egypt banned drugs, by law. Which should give you a clue as to just how effective laws against drugs are.

Wars against them are just about as effective, like the one we've been engaging in since at least 1959, when I first heard about it in a junior high school assembly.

Drugs are, supposedly, a threat to society.

I say "supposedly" because it's one of the absurdities we have been taught practically from the cradle.

They aren't, really.

If they were, civilization would have crumbled long before now.

In fact, it would have been stillborn.

What drugs are is a challenge to society, and one that is being met poorly.

Tempe is wrestling with the Sudafed conundrum.

Should it take the lead, restrict over-the-counter medications that can be used to make meth, or not?

Let me give you a hint. It really doesn't make a difference what Tempe does. Banning drugs has been an irrelevant affectation of government almost as long as there has been government.

The lines that head this column are the closing lines of Kublai Khan, a dream written by opium addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Psychology is the product of cocaine addict Sigmund Freud.

And some of the best books of the 20th century were written by a heroin addict named William S. Burroughs.

The challenge to society is not to stop drugs. As long as there have been societies, that has been tried and has failed miserably.

The challenge is really to take the phenomenon and shape it into a beneficial development for society. Treat it in such a way as to create such things as poems and novels and sciences.

I would certainly rather see another Kublai Khan in the world than Andrew Thomas' TV commercials.

Tempe and the rest of society need to face the fact that government is powerless to stop drugs.

Governments have been a complete and abject failure in attempting to stop drugs for about 6,000 years, despite a constant and concerted effort.

Perhaps the answer to the problem lies in a different direction?

Rick Russell is the co-author of "Antique Traders Vintage Magazine Price Guide" and can be reached at

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